The Championship Course has hosted the Boat Race since 1845Roesie Percy/@a_blind_photographer

The Boat Race’s future on the Championship Course is under threat following plans from Fulham Football Club to build a new pier on the River Thames.

Fleur Anderson, Labour MP for Putney since 2019, told the House of Commons on Thursday (31/3) that the football club’s plans to erect an 80-metre passenger pier underneath the new stand at their home ground, Craven Cottage, will make the river too disruptive and dangerous for people boating on it.

This year’s Boat Race will take place on the Tideway tomorrow (3/4) after a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Anderson said: “The future of the Boat Race [...] is under threat [...] as it has very fixed start and finish points in Putney and Mortlake, and [the pier] would severely impact preparations for the race.”

The Battle of the Blues is not the only source of rowing in jeopardy, as a number of historic boat clubs, including Imperial College Boat House, London Rowing Club, and Ranelagh Sailing Club, “would have to close if [the construction] goes ahead,” explains Anderson.

Fulham FC’s plans, which still require permission from both Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Port of London Authority, would make use of the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers service that already operates on the river to accommodate fan travel on match days.

Anderson, however, takes aim at the “VIP trips” that she believes the club will offer, adding that “they are choosing the VIP elite and putting them over the world-renowned Boat Race.”

“Fulham FC just don’t seem to be backing down on their plans,” she says, “they are not listening to the concerns nor taking them seriously at all.”

A campaign, spearheaded by Anderson, has been created in an effort to ‘stop the pier’. The Labour MP expressed the importance of student help in this situation: “For all of the students that support Cambridge and go [to the Tideway] for this iconic race, the fact that it wouldn’t be held in such a historic place where Oxford and Cambridge have always battled it out would be dreadful.

“I would ask all students, whether they are rowers or not, to support the campaign.”

The Boat Race organiser released an official statement in response to the proposed plans, describing that the construction “would negatively impact the historic annual Boat Race [...] and the training of the crews on this stretch of river would be seriously impeded, with added wash and danger from the river traffic using the pier.”

They also expressed concern for the potential disruption to junior rowers from clubs like Fulham Reach Boat Club, “who are a recipient of The Gemini Boat Race Bursary and do fantastic work creating opportunities for young people from local schools to experience rowing.”


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The Sea Scouts, Thames Regional Rowing Council, and British Rowing have all voiced their opposition to the pier too.

In defence of the planned construction, a Fulham FC spokesperson told Varsity: “The comments made by Fleur Anderson MP [...] are inaccurate and wrong.

“For clarity, there is no proposal to extend a pontoon 80 metres across the Thames (nor has there ever been) and there is absolutely no risk whatsoever to the Boat Race.”

The club further claims that the pier would improve the Boat Race rather than endanger it: “Fulham’s design would, in addition to creating substantial and obvious benefits to the local community, focus on providing a wonderful viewing platform which would enhance the Boat Race atmosphere, experience, and accessibility.”

Anderson predicts that “the battle about the planning permission is likely to be later this year [...] and, if they [Fulham FC] were to start building the year after, we could be looking at the Boat Race not being able to happen in two years time.”

Varsity has contacted Cambridge University Boat Club for comment.